Friday, 23 December 2016

Guide to Online Newspaper Archives - My piece in Family Tree Magazine UK

Family Tree Magazine  UK Jan 2017  OUT NOW


Guide to Newspaper Archives Online 
by Ruth A. Symes




#news #newspapers #press #familyhistoryresearch #searchmyancestry #newspaperarticles #britishnewspaperarchive







Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Competition Winner Announced! Tracing Ancestors Through Letters and Personal Writings

And the winner of the TELEGRAM FROM YOUR ANCESTOR COMPETITION is: 



M. Diane Rogers (President at the Vancouver Postcard Club)


for her entry:


 'Lift my old trunk's lining [Stop] Love Great-Grandma [Stop]'

Well done Diane!


A copy of my book Tracing Ancestors Through Letters and Personal Writings will be on its way to you tomorrow!

Thanks to all the other entrants. Follow this blog (by entering your email address in the right-hand column) for more competitions and genealogy news!


Winner Of Competition To Be Announced Later Today - Tracing Ancestors Through Letters And Personal Writings

Winner Of Competition To Be Announced Later Today


Competition Time! - Win a Copy of Tracing Ancestors Through Letters and Personal Writing

Win a copy of my new book:

Tracing Ancestors Through Letters and Personal Writings (Pen and Sword, 2016)

Write a telegram from your ancestor to you (8 words max).

Send via the comments box on this blog or message me through twitter @RuthASymes or Facebook: Searchmyancestry.


Example: 'Ignore birth certificate [Stop] Check DNA [Stop] Great-grandfather'
Winner drawn 21 December




#ancestry #ancestors #familyhistory #familytree #familyhistorybooks #familyhistorygifts #wdytya #ruthasymes #genealogy

Monday, 19 December 2016

Search My Ancestry: Search My Ancestry: Search My Ancestry: Search My ...

Last Day to Send in Your Entries

Search My Ancestry: Search My Ancestry: Search My Ancestry: Search My ...: Search My Ancestry: Search My Ancestry: Search My Ancestry: Competitio... : Search My Ancestry: Search My Ancestry: Competition Time - Win a...

Search My Ancestry: Search My Ancestry: Search My Ancestry: Competitio...

Search My Ancestry: Search My Ancestry: Search My Ancestry: Competitio...: Search My Ancestry: Search My Ancestry: Competition Time - Win a Copy ... : Search My Ancestry: Competition Time - Win a Copy of Tracing Anc...

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

JUST OUT

Tracing Ancestors Through Letters and Personal Writing (Pen and Sword, 2016)

http://bit.ly/2gIgnz8

Could your ancestors write their own names or did they mark official documents with a cross? Why did great-grandfather write so cryptically on a postcard home during the First World War? Why did great-grandmother copy all the letters she wrote into letter-books? How unusual was it that great-uncle sat down and wrote a poem, or a memoir? Researching Family History Through Ancestors' Personal Writings looks at the kinds of (mainly unpublished) writing that could turn up amongst family papers from the Victorian period onwards - a time during which writing became crucial for holding families together and managing their collective affairs. With industrialisation, improved education, and far more geographical mobility, British people of all classes were writing for new purposes, with new implements, in new styles, using new modes of expression and new methods of communication (e.g. telegrams and postcards). Our ancestors had an itch for scribbling from the most basic marks (initials, signatures and graffiti on objects as varied as trees, rafters and window ledges), through more emotionally-charged kinds of writing such as letters and diaries, to more creative works such as poetry and even fiction. This book shows family historians how to get the most out of documents written by their ancestors and, therefore, how better to understand the people behind the words.


http://bit.ly/2gIgnz8


                                                                                     http://bit.ly/2gIgnz8

#ancestry #ancestors #familyhistory #familytree #familyhistorybooks #familyhistorygifts #wdytya #ruthasymes #genealogy #letters #personalwriting #autobiography #poetry #graffiti #postcards #greetingscards #diaries #appointmentdiaries #signatures #traveljournals #commonplacebooks #telegrams

Search My Ancestry: Search My Ancestry: Competition Time - Win a Copy ...

Search My Ancestry: Search My Ancestry: Competition Time - Win a Copy ...: Search My Ancestry: Competition Time - Win a Copy of Tracing Ancestors... : Competition Time! - Win a Copy of Tracing Ancestors Through Lett...

Monday, 12 December 2016

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Competition Time - Win a Copy of Tracing Ancestors Through Letters and Personal Writing

Competition Time! - Win a Copy of Tracing Ancestors Through Letters and Personal Writing

Win a copy of my new book:

Tracing Ancestors Through Letters and Personal Writings (Pen and Sword, 2016)

Write a telegram from your ancestor to you (8 words max).

Send via the comments box on this blog or message me through twitter @RuthASymes or Facebook: Searchmyancestry.

Example: 'Ignore birth certificate [Stop] Check DNA [Stop] Great-grandfather'
Winner drawn 21 December


                                               Click here for more on books by Ruth A. Symes (UK)


                                         Click here for more on books by Ruth A. Symes USA



For more daily Christmas tips from your ancestors follow this blog (by putting your email address into the box in the right hand column). For tips that have already been posted, scroll through the blog!

#ancestors #ancestors #ancestryhour #familyhistory #familytree #ideasforchristmasfromyourancestors #wdytya #ruthasymes #genealogy #letters #personalwritings #telegrams #greetingscards #postcards #marginalia #graffiti #diaries #appointmentdiaries #commonplacebooks #autobiographies #memoirs #selfhistories #poetry #poems #letterbooks #traveljournals


Tuesday, 6 December 2016

How to Trace Ancestors Through Letters and Personal Writings - On Family Tree Magazine UK Blog


See my 'how-to' article on how to trace ancestors through letters and other personal writings on the blog of :

Family Tree Magazine UK


Read the magazine blog article here



 Learn more about my new book and buy it by clicking here

Don't forget to enter your email address in the box on the right to follow this blog!

Tracing Ancestors Through Letters and Personal Writings OUT NOW AND AVAILABLE TO BUY

Tracing Ancestors Through Letters and Personal Writings, by Ruth A. Symes (Pen and Sword Books, 2016)


JUST OUT

Buy book by clicking here




Could your ancestors write their own names or did they mark official documents with a cross? Why did great-grandfather write so cryptically on a postcard home during the First World War? Why did great-grandmother copy all the letters she wrote into letter-books? How unusual was it that great-uncle sat down and wrote a poem, or a memoir?

Tracing Ancestors Through Letters and Personal Writings looks at the kinds of (mainly unpublished) writing that could turn up amongst family papers from the Victorian period onwards - a time during which writing became crucial for holding families together and managing their collective affairs.

With industrialisation, improved education, and far more geographical mobility, British people of all classes were writing for new purposes, with new implements, in new styles, using new modes of expression and new methods of communication (e.g. telegrams and postcards). Our ancestors had an itch for scribbling from the most basic marks (initials, signatures and graffiti on objects as varied as trees, rafters and window ledges), through more emotionally-charged kinds of writing such as letters and diaries, to more creative works such as poetry and even fiction.

This book shows family historians how to get the most out of documents written by their ancestors and, therefore, how better to understand the people behind the words.





Don't forget to enter your email address in the box on the right to follow this blog!

#ancestors #ancestors #ancestryhour #familyhistory #familytree #ideasforchristmasfromyourancestors #wdytya #ruthasymes #genealogy #letters #personalwritings #telegrams #greetingscards #postcards #marginalia #graffiti #diaries #appointmentdiaries #commonplacebooks #autobiographies #memoirs #selfhistories #poetry #poems #letterbooks #traveljournals

Search My Ancestry: Article - How Our Ancestors Decorated For Christm...

Search My Ancestry: Article - How Our Ancestors Decorated For Christm...: Deck The Halls - Ancestor-style!  G reenery and fruit, sparkle and snow, colourfully-dressed tables and walls inscribed with Yuletid...


Don't forget to enter your email address in the box on the right to follow this blog!

Search My Ancestry: Search My Ancestry: Competition Time! - Win a Copy...

Search My Ancestry: Search My Ancestry: Competition Time! - Win a Copy...: Competition Time Win a copy of my new book: Tracing Ancestors Through Letters and Personal Writings   (Pen and Sword, 2016)  Write a te..

Don't forget to enter your email address in the box on the right to follow this blog!

Monday, 5 December 2016

Search My Ancestry: Competition Time! - Win a Copy of Tracing Ancestor...

Competition Time

Win a copy of my new book: Tracing Ancestors Through Letters and Personal Writings  (Pen and Sword, 2016) 

Write a telegram from your ancestor.to you (8 words max).

Send via the comments box on this blog or message me through twitter @RuthASymes or Facebook: Searchmyancestry.

Winner drawn 21 December

Click here for more on books by Ruth A. Symes



Don't forget to enter your email address in the box on the right to follow this blog!


Saturday, 3 December 2016

Competition Time! - Win a Copy of Tracing Ancestors Through Letters and Personal Writing

Win a copy of my new book:

Tracing Ancestors Through Letters and Personal Writings (Pen and Sword, 2016)

Write a telegram from your ancestor to you (8 words max).

Send via the comments box on this blog or message me through twitter @RuthASymes or Facebook: Searchmyancestry.

Winner drawn 21 December

Click here for more on books by Ruth A. Symes

Don't forget to enter your email address in the box on the right to follow this blog!



#ancestry #ancestors #familyhistory #familytree #wdytya #ruthasymes # familyhistorybooks  #familyhistorygifts #tracingancestorsthroughlettersandpersonalwritings

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Discover Your Ancestors 5th Annual Bookazine : Out Now!

Discover Your Ancestors 5th Annual Bookazine

OUT IN NEWSAGENTS NOW

Includes two articles by Ruth A. Symes 

'Maternal Ties' - on our ancestors' experiences of motherhood (contraception, abortion, miscarriage, and childbirth). 

'Climate Changes' - on the effect of various historical weather events in the lives of our ancestors.

Click here for more on the periodical and bookazine

Click here for more on books by Ruth A. Symes


Don't forget to enter your email address in the box on the right to follow this blog!


#wdytya #discoveryourancestors #familyhistorygifts #familyhistorybooks #ancestors #ancestry #familytree #ancestryhour #genealogy 

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Family First - Find out more about your ancestors in their family roles

Find out how your ancestors lived as fathers, mothers, sisters, daughters, children, sons, daughters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, neighbours and associates.


Family First:Tracing Relationships in the Past

by Ruth A. Symes

(Pen and Sword, 2015)

Click here to see more and buy

Don't forget to enter your email address in the box on the right to follow this blog!


Husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents – these are the relationships that structure the family tree and fascinate the family historian. But how much do we really know about how our ancestors lived out these multiple roles? Buffeted this way and that by economic developments, legal changes, medical advances, Two World Wars, the rise of the Welfare State, women’s emancipation and many other factors, relationships between members of our family in the past were subtly different to those of today and continually transforming. 
This book is both a social history of the period 1800-1950 and a practical guide on how to set about tracing and better understanding the relationships between members of your own family. What did it mean to be a father in this period, but also, how might you discover the father of an ancestor if his name is not mentioned on the birth certificate? What common ideas were held about the role of wives and mothers, but also, how were multiple births, stillbirths, abortions and infanticides dealt with in the records? What factors might have influenced the size of your ancestor’s family, but also why were its children named as they were? Did pecking order in a family matter, but also, was it legal to marry a cousin, or the sister of a deceased wife? How long could people expect to live, but also what records can tell you more about the circumstances of your ancestors’ last years? A final chapter considers relationships with neighbours, friends and club associates.



#familyhistorybooks #familyhistorygifts #familytree #wdytya #ruthasymes #familytree #ancestors #ancestry #Victorian =#Edwardian

It Runs in the Family - Find out more about your ancestors' physical appearance and their personal effects!

It Runs in the Family: Understanding More About Your Ancestors 

by Ruth A. Symes

(The History Press 2013)

Click here to see more and buy


Don't forget to enter your email address in the box on the right to follow this blog!
In the quest to uncover our family history, we turn to written records, the family album and even heirlooms. However, they can often be difficult to interpret and sometimes pose more questions than they answer: Why didn’t my ancestors smile for the camera? Why did great-grandfather wear a beard while his sons were clean-shaven? Why is my great-grandmother holding flowers in this photograph? Drawing on evidence from social history, women’s history, and the histories of photography, art and fashion, and using examples from the lowly as well as the famous, Ruth Symes explores many aspects of ordinary life in the past – from the state of the nation’s teeth, to the legal and economic connotations of wearing a wedding ring and even the business of keeping a dog. This fascinating volume aims to help family historians get to know their elusive ancestors by deciphering the wealth of personal and historical clues contained in photographs, documents and artefacts.





#familyhistorybooks #familytree #familyhistorygifts #enealogy # familytree #familyphotographs #wdytya #ruthasymes

Unearthing Family Tree Mysteries - Investigate the Rumours in Your Family History

Find out how to investigate the rumours that circulate around your own family tree: 

Unearthing Family Tree Mysteries 
by Ruth A. Symes
(Pen and Sword, 2016)


Click here to see more and buy

Don't forget to enter your email address in the box on the right to follow this blog!
The intriguing characters in these real family history mysteries include an agricultural labourer who left secrets behind in Somerset when he migrated to Manchester, a working-class woman who bafflingly lost ten of her fourteen children in infancy, a miner who purportedly went to live with the Red Indians and a merchant prince of the Empire who was rumoured to have two wives. This book shows how a variety of sources including birth, marriage and death certificates, censuses, newspaper reports, passports, recipe books, trade directories, diaries and passenger lists were all used to uncover more, and how much can be detected by setting the characters from your family tree in their proper historical backgrounds. This book is an updated edition of my previous book, titled Stories From Your Family Tree: Researching Ancestors Within Living Memory (2008).





#familyhistorybooks #genealogy #familyhistorygifts #sources #Victorian #Edwardian #history #discovery #ruthasymes #discoveryourancestors #wdytya

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Ancestors' Signatures - New book to help you find out more



Find out more about your ancestor from his/her signature 
(and many other aspects of his/her personal writing)



Tracing Ancestors Through Letters and  Personal Writings

(Pen and Sword, 2016)

Out Next Week



                                                                       [From The Brighter Blackout Book, by Howard Thomas and Marjorie Banks, George Allen and Unwin, 1939]




#wdytya #ancestors #ancestry #genealogy #familyhistory #familytree #letters #familyhistorybooks #signatures #writing #personalwriting

Friday, 25 November 2016

Get more out of your hand-held computer - Family History Research

If you enjoy this article, why not follow me for more creative approaches to family history?
 Twitter: https://twitter.com/RuthaSymes
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Searchmyancestry/

Ask for a Tablet for Christmas - To Help Your Family History Research

Click here for more on books by Ruth A. Symes

Don't forget to enter your email address in the box on the right to follow this blog!

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if when next visiting archives or relatives for your family history research, you didn’t have to pack pens, papers, albums or library books? After all, how often do pens leak, papers get torn, or notes fall out of order or go missing? Memorabilia can sometimes be just too precious to take out of the house and reference material is very likely to be far too heavy to carry. The answer lies in your hand-held computer. Used to its full potential, your handy tablet can act as a micro-office combining multiple functions such as filing cabinet, photograph album, search tool, scanner, library and much, much more. 


                                                                                                             By William Hook -  WikimediaCommons

Jargon busting
Tablets include iPad, which uses Apple’s operating system (ios) and Android devices such as Kindle Fire HD, Samsung Galaxy or Google Nexus. Smartphones have many of the same functions, but because of their smaller size can be less easy to read and operate – though they have the advantage of working outside restricted wi-fi areas. With small variations, any of these devices can facilitate your family history research in many different ways – tracing your roots need never be such hard work again!

1 Take material with you and keep it safe
Tablets are small and light enough to carry easily and can be carried in their own special case. Don’t worry about security. You can set a password to ensure that no one else has access to your personal information.

2 Take, store and send photographs
The large clear photographs that can be taken on a tablet are one of their finest features. Store the photographs (and even short videos) in labelled files on your device for easy retrieval. If interviewing elderly relatives, there is no better way to jog memories than a slideshow of images of people, places, family properties and heirlooms.

3 Download family history apps
There are all sorts of apps (applications) that you can download on to your tablet to help you with your family history research. These can be found by clicking on the ‘App Store’ icon on your iPad or the ‘Play Store’ icon on your Android-operated appliance. Search for relevant apps either by name or by browsing under the keyword(s) ‘genealogy’ or ‘family history’ to see what is currently on offer. Some apps are free and others require payment by credit card or PayPal account. Some apps will provide the tools for you to draw up and manage your own family tree on the tablet itself. Others are databases of potentially vital information (the history of the British Peerage or collections of scanned old newspapers, for example) and services (such as how to organise a family reunion).

4 Scan documents
Download an app that will turn your tablet into a scanner and then make copies of all your important family history documents: censuses, certificates, letters, and even old photographs. These will act as a vital back up to the originals. JotNot Scanner (for iPad) and TinyScan (for iPad or Android) are two such apps available for free.

                                Staff member retrieves files from the National Archives, Kew (Wikimedia Commons Images)

5 Take notes when you are out and about
You can type notes on your tablet when visiting archives, or even when talking to family members. On the iPad, the basic note-making facility ‘Notes’, will be already installed; Android-operated appliances have the ‘Memo’ facility. Alternatively, you can download a more sophisticated diary or journal app from the App Store/Play Store, for example Evernote, which allows you to sync your files across all your electronic devices. You then sign in to Evernote from any computer to access and update the files.
Some notepad apps will allow you to doodle or draw (a useful facility if you want to record gravestone engravings, or the design of heraldic crests, for example).

                                                           Look for alternatives to writing notes by hand

6 Plan research trips
The Assisted–GPS (Global Positioning Chip) inside most hand-held computers can give you the co-ordinates of exactly where you are, and (combined with Google Maps accessed through the internet), can help you to plan research trips to other places. Use the GPS function also to pinpoint graves and other places important to your history and then pass this information on to other interested family members. Unless you have ‘3G’ installed on your tablet, you won’t be able to use it to help you navigate whilst you are actually travelling. Smartphones, however, since they have on-the-go internet access, can be used in the car, on the train etc.

7 E-readers
Many family history books and articles can now be purchased online at www.amazon.co.uk as Kindle downloads. Store these in your Kindle App to read at your leisure. The advantages of reading from a Kindle rather than a book are many: you can, for instance, read wherever you are, carry lots of books simultaneously, adjust the size of the text to suit you, find key words and move easily between different parts of the book. Other retailers, such as Barnes & Noble, WH Smith and John Lewis, make their own brand ebook readers.
l iBooks is Apple’s ebook store, www.apple.com/uk/apps/ibooks.
l Googlebooks (www.books.google.co.uk) allows you to preview books and in some cases read the text of entire volumes online, if the titles are in the public domain.
l Project Gutenberg (www.gutenberg.org) provides electronic access to thousands of older books that are in the public domain.

8 Search & save information
Your tablet is connected to the vast array of information sources available on the worldwide web. Google (www.google.co.uk) provides easy access to information and images. Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org) is a good starting point for answers to all sorts of questions about the past, but remember to check the reliability of the information. Join one of the commercial genealogical websites www.ancestry.co.uk; www.findmypast.co.uk or www.thegenealogist.co.uk) for instant access to information such as parish records, censuses, birth, marriage and death indexes, military records, records of travel and migration, electoral rolls, land tax records, historical surveys, newspaper reports and much more.
l If you see an interesting webpage that you would like to return to, simply bookmark the page onto your home page, or ‘clip’ the page to your note-taking app. Alternatively, you can take a screenshot by simply pressing the home button and the power button simultaneously. Retrieve the information from your photos folder. You can send copied information to yourself via email and, if necessary, print it out from your desktop computer at a later point.
l Dropbox, www.dropbox.com, is an online facility that allows you to save information from your tablet onto an external server so that it cannot be lost. Your folder can be shared by others provided you allow them your access details.

9 Join a social networking site
Social networking sites are free and allow you to share information quickly with lots of other people who are interested in the same family, place, time period, institution or whatever.
l My Heritage (www.MyHeritage.com) is a social networking site specifically for family historians.
l Facebook (www.facebook.com) hosts pages devoted to individual families (listed by surname).
l If there is no page on these sites for your family already, why not think about creating your own? Read about how to do this at http://goo.gl/1Y0XFc. You will then be able to post news and photographs about your own family history and invite other family members across the world to post theirs.
l Linkedin (www.linkedin.com) is a social networking site for professionals. Here you can connect with experts in various aspects of genealogy.
l Twitter (www.twitter.com) allows you to post very short pieces of news (maximum 140 characters). Here you can choose to ‘follow’ your favourite family history writers, and other interested people may choose to ‘follow’ you. 

10 Communicate with others
Emails (or messages sent directly from iPad to iPad in real time) are quick, cheap and easy to send and can be less embarrassing than a phone call and less formal than a letter. And if you are feeling particularly bold, why not try out a video messaging service (such as Skype, Google Hangouts, or – on iPad only – Facetime) to see and talk to newly-acquired or long-lost relatives, or to send a recorded video message to them.

This article first appeared in Family Tree Magazine UK

#familyhistory #ancestors #ancestry #technology #android #tablet #ipad #handheldcomputer #familyhistoryresearch 

See family history books by Ruth A. Symes at amzn.to/2egoPae

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Competition time: Win a copy of Tracing Ancestors Through Letters and Personal Writings

Win a copy of my new book:

Tracing Ancestors Through Letters and Personal Writings (Pen and Sword, 2016)

Write a telegram from your ancestor to you (8 words max).

Send via the comments box on this blog or message me through twitter @RuthASymes or Facebook: Searchmyancestry.

Winner drawn 21 December

Click here for more on books by Ruth A. Symes



#letters #ancestorsletters #personalwriting #genealogy #familyhistory #history #familytree #writing #telegrams #diaries #appointmentdiaries #commonplacebooks #poetry #memoir #selfhistory #marginalia #postcards #greetingscards #valentines #birthdaybooks #graffiti #signatures #traveljournals 

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Everything But Surnames: Family History Books for Christmas

Everything But Surnames!

Family History Books For Christmas: Gifts With A Difference

Click here to view details of all four books by Ruth A. Symes:

Click here for more on books by Ruth A. Symes

Unearthing Family Tree Mysteries; It Runs in the Family; Family First: Tracing Relationships in the Past; Tracing Ancestors Through Letters and Personal Writings 

Click here for more on books by Ruth A Symes


#motherhood #elderlyancestors #brooches #rings #pets #hair #flowers #fatherhood #infancy #recopes #commonplacebooks #diaries #teeth #postcards #letters #children #graffiti #auntsanduncles #marginalia #passports #newspapers #grandparents #socialcircles #tattoos #eyes #stature #cuflinks #letters #appointmentdiaries #signatures #autobiographies #poetry #songs #cousins #domesticservants #oldbooks #photographs #ornaments #miners #researchtips #questionstoask #unusualsources #greatread and plenty more!








Monday, 7 November 2016

Wigan Evening Post Celebrates the Launch of Miss Weeton

The Wigan Evening Post Celebrates the Launch of:

Miss Weeton: Governess and Traveller (ed. Alan Roby, with an introduction by Ruth A. Symes)

#MissWeeton #ellenweeton #governess #Regency #Wigan #journals #letters #letterbooks #womenwriters



Thursday, 3 November 2016

Queen Victoria's 'Rowdy Halloweens' at Balmoral

See my article on Queen Victoria's 'Rowdy Halloweens' at Balmoral in October 2016's

Scots Heritage Magazine

#Scottish #scotsheritage #scotshistory #queenvictoria #Halloween #Balmoral #Britishhistory #Victorian #royalfamily #ukhistory #autumn



Click here for more on books by Ruth A Symes



Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Off by Heart - The Poetry Our Ancestors Learnt at School

RHYMES IN TIME


See my article on the POETRY our ancestors learnt by heart in this month's
Discover Your Ancestors Magazine online.  







#familyhistory #familytree #genealogy #familyhistorybooks #ancestors #ancestry

Tracing Ancestors Through Letters and Personal Writings

Tracing Ancestors Through Letters and Personal Writings (Pen and Sword, 2016)

                                                 Coming at the end of this month.... Nov 30th 2016


                                                            

Click here for more on books by Ruth A. Symes

Could your ancestors write their own names or did they mark official documents with a cross? Why did great-grandfather write so cryptically on a postcard home during the First World War? Why did great-grandmother copy all the letters she wrote into letter-books? How unusual was it that great-uncle sat down and wrote a poem, or a memoir? Tracing Family History Through Letters and Other Personal Writings looks at the kinds of (mainly unpublished) writing that could turn up amongst family papers from the Victorian period onwards - a time during which writing became crucial for holding families together and managing their collective affairs. With industrialisation, improved education, and far more geographical mobility, British people of all classes were writing for new purposes, with new implements, in new styles, using new modes of expression and new methods of communication (e.g. telegrams and postcards). Our ancestors had an itch for scribbling from the most basic marks (initials, signatures and graffiti on objects as varied as trees, rafters and window ledges), through more emotionally-charged kinds of writing such as letters and diaries, to more creative works such as poetry and even fiction. This book shows family historians how to get the most out of documents written by their ancestors and, therefore, how better to understand the people behind the words.




#personalwritings #ancestryhour #ancestry # ancestors # familyhistory #familytree #genealogy #family #familyhistorybooks #familyhistorybooks #letters  #marginalia, #diaries #appointmentdiaries #commonplacebooks #memoirs #selfhistories #autobiographies #poems #poetry #graffiti #postcards #greetingscards #valentines #telegrams #traveljournals

Friday, 28 October 2016

World War One - Messages in Bottles


A Bottled History of the First World War

For more on books by Ruth A Symes








To help trace the origin of a bottled message today it is possible to trace ships’ names, journeys, ports of destination and arrival, naval disasters and shipwrecks in archives and the press. Names and addresses of military personnel or civilians can be searched in military records, censuses, electoral rolls, trade and telephone directories.
(Wikimedia Commons)


Many of us have ancestors who fought in the First World War and, over the next few months and years, we will no doubt seek out their stories using official military records (available online for a small fee at all the major commercial genealogy sites); as well as personal records such as war diaries, letters and postcards sent home from the front. We are unlikely to come across anything as thrilling as a message in a bottle thrown into the sea by a young soldier or civilian in the grips of war! But many such items have in fact been found over the years and they give a dramatic and chilling insight into the desperation of the times.

The First World War involved a great deal of troop movement on water, especially across the English Channel but also in the North Sea, the Meditteranean, the Atlantic, The Black Sea, and the Baltic Sea. There was also some action in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.  At the same time, in a world before large scale-scale commercial aviation, many ordinary civilians continued to travel by sea for business and leisure purposes between 1914 and 1918. For some servicemen and civilians, messages in bottles were a last resort, a futile cry for help when ships, or other vessels were sinking. For many others the gesture of throwing bottle into the ocean would have been a jest, a last flippant acknowledgement of the folks back home as a new adventure unfolded. Few of these depositors believed, perhaps, that such a missive would ever reach its intended recipient. Such cheery bottled messages when found many years later are a sad testimony to the youthful naivety of those that threw them into the water.

For yet other message writers, however, there was definitely an undercurrent of recognition of the painful reality of their circumstances and a desperate attempt to leave something for posterity. Some soldiers and sailors would have been unsure whether an ordinary postal service would be uncensored, available, or at all efficient when they were serving overseas. Others were all too aware of the dangers they were facing. Many hoped that, if found, their messages would be sent on to wives and girlfriends, or transcribed into local newspapers and seen by their intended recipients, even if they, the senders, were no longer around.

British Soldiers off to France

26 year old Private Thomas Hughes of the Second Durham Light Infantry. Third Army Corp Expeditionary Force, wrote a letter to his wife on the 9th September 1914 as he crossed the English Channel on his way to serve in Northern France.  Hughes put his message in a green ginger beer bottle sealed with a screw-on rubber stopper. It read:

Dear Wife, I am writing this note on this boat and dropping it into the sea just to see if it will reach you. If it does, sign this envelope on the right hand bottom corner where it says ‘receipt’. Put the date and hour of receipt and your name where it says signature and look after it well. Ta ta sweet, for the present. Your Hubby."

A covering note asked the finder to send the note on to Hughes’ wife, ‘Sir or madam, youth or maid, Would you kindly forward the enclosed letter and earn the blessing of a poor British soldier on his way to the front.’ Unfortunately by the time the bottle and message were found some 86 years later off the Essex coast by Thames fisherman, Steve Gowan, Hughes’s wife Elizabeth was long dead. And it was discovered that Hughes himself had been killed just two days after he had bestowed his bottle to the waves.

Australian Soldiers Heading for Gallipoli

During World War One, as many as 313, 814 Australian soldiers embarked for service overseas. The first of these were aboard ship as early as October 1914 and included recruits from Tasmania, Adelaide and Perth on route for Gallipoli. Some bottles deposited in the sea by these men were washed up on the shore within days and their messages posted in local newspapers and then nationwide. Since the soldiers had generally not reached the battlefield, their messages tended to be reasonably cheery accounts of life on board ship and they remained uncensored in newspapers.   

Private Thomas Brown’s message in March 1916 to his mother at Killarney, Victoria was found just a few days later on the beach at Narrawong, Victoria:

Dear Mother,
I am now writing you these few lines, and hope you get them all right. I am putting this note in this bottle, and going to throw it overboard.
We are about 50 miles from shore. We know when we get somewhere near Warrnambool. We are having pretty good weather so far. If it keeps like this the whole of the voyage we will enjoy it.
You can tell father that I am sorry I did not write to him, but I had not time for the last two or three days. It was nothing but running about everywhere getting things ready for inspection.
Well, Mother, I will close my short letter, hoping you get it all right. Remember me to father, sisters and brothers.
Goodbye,
son Tom,
At Sea.”


(Source: Tom Brown’s letter, Portland Guardian, 20 Mar. 1916,TROVE,NLA)

Thomas Brown’s message might not have been so upbeat had he written it after his war experiences. His military record, held in the National Archives of Australia and in newspaper accounts held at the National Library of Australia, shows that he served and was wounded in France before being sent once more to the front and wounded again on 11th April 1917. He was then taken prisoner-of-war at Remicourt, interred in a German war camp at Munster Lager, expatriated to England, returned finally to Australia on the 2nd March 1919.


Passengers on the Lusitania 7th May 1915

The Lusitania was a cruise ship owned by the Cunard Steamship Line which made regular monthly trips from Liverpool to New York. It was on a return journey from New York on May 7th 1915 that the ship was torpedoed without warning off the coast of Ireland by the German submarine U-20 ostensibly because it was believed to be carrying supplies and munitions provided by America to the British. The ship reportedly sank within 18 minutes of being struck and the loss of life was devastating: 1198 died, only 760 were rescued.

Various apocryphal stories circulated about messages that had supposedly been thrown from the Lusitania just before it sank, but then in the 1930s came two more certain pieces of evidence that such desperate action had in fact indeed been taken. In 1931, a shell-encrusted bottle turned up on the beach at Husum Scheleswig, Germany, and was reported in the Aberdeen Journal of 3rd January 1931. The message was signed with the names and cabin numbers of ten passengers and recorded chillingly that the ‘Lusitania [would] sink in 10 minutes.’ The second bottle was washed up on the shore of Viareggio, Italy, two years later and was reported in the Hull Daily Mail of 28th June 1933. It contained a faint message which appeared to include the words   ‘S.O.S.’ and ‘Lusit.’

Stranded German Aviators 1916

On 31st January 1916, German aviators in Zeppelin L 19 (LZ 54) of the Kaiserliche Marine (German Imperial Navy) left an airbase in Denmark to make a bombing raid on English cities. After attacking Burton-on-Trent, Tipton, Walsall and Birchills near Birmingham, the Zeppelin tried to return to Denmark but suffered engine and radio difficulties. She eventually drifted over Holland and was brought down into the North Sea during the night of 1st-2nd February by Dutch rifle fire. The 16 airmen managed to cling to the wreckage but their cries for help went unanswered by a British steam fishing trawler The King Stephen supposedly because the captain believed that he and the nine unarmed members of his crew be overpowered by the Germans if he attempted to rescue them. Now abandoned and realising that they were probably doomed, the German airmen and their captain Odo Lowe wrote messages to their families and placed them in bottles which they released into the sea.

The remains of the Zeppelin sank within hours: there were no survivors. Lowe’s bottle of messages to his family was found by a yacht near Gothenburg, Sweden a few weeks later. Another bottle with messages from the other airmen and a last report from Lowe was discovered six months later by Swedish fishermen at Marstrand: Its final line (here translated into English) made dramatic reading: ‘2nd February 1916, towards one o'clock, will apparently be our last hour.’

British sailors recovering a failed torpedo 1916
(Wikimedia Commons Popular Science Monthly, Volume 88.)

Nautical messages from the past - preserved in glass, or even plastic, like flies in amber - are likely to keep on turning up. Since few so far have managed to survive the seas for longer than a hundred years, we can’t expect many more to emerge from our ancestors who were involved in the First World War. However, a recent collector of bottled messages in the Thames Estuary has suggested that for every 200 bottles she sees on her gathering expeditions, at least one will contain a message! They were dropped into the sea sometime by someone’s ancestors. So do keep looking.


Click here for more on books by Ruth A Symes


Extra Reading

Bullivant, Richard, Message in a Bottle: Messages of Hope, Laughter, Despair and Intrigue (Real Life Stories) Kindle Edition, Nov. 2013.

Greg King and Penny Wilson, Lusitania: Triumph, Tragedy and the End of The Edwardian Age, St Martin’s Press, 2015.

www:jfawcettblog.com/messages-from-the-sea-ww1-bottle-post-messages/ fascinating blog about the messages of Australian soldiers thrown overboard in bottles in the First World War.

Hart, Peter, Gallipoli, Profile Books, 2013.

Hayward, James, Myths and Legends of the First World War, The History Press, 2005.

Parker, Nigel J. Gott Strafe England: The German Air Assault Against Great Britain 1914-1918, Helion and Company, Volume 1, 2015
This article was first published in Family Tree Magazine UK in 2016.

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